Feb 23

Colloquium: Danny Munoz-Hutchinson (St. Olaf)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
4:30 – 6:30 pm / Leighton 301

Danny Munoz-Hutchinson (St. Olaf): "Dualism before Descartes: Plotinus and the Problem of Causal Interaction.

For a copy of the paper, please e-mail dgroll.

Abstract: It is a widespread assumption in the philosophy of mind that dualism and the causal interaction problem originate in the seventeenth century. This assumption frames both the characterization of dualism and the attempt to replace it with another ‘-ism’ more in line with contemporary scientific practice. However, considerations from late antiquity provide good reasons to question this assumption and challenge its framing effects.The distinction between the soul and the body begins properly in the fifth century BC with Democritus and Plato.  However, Plato does not envisage an interaction problem because he ultimately holds that both soul and body are spatially extended. It is not until the third century AD that the Platonic philosopher, Plotinus, develops this distinction in such a way that soul-body interaction becomes metaphysically problematic. Plotinus holds that the soul is present to the body without being spatially extended throughout the body, and that the soul is incapable of being affected by the body. This generates a problem of causal interaction that no previous philosopher in the Platonic tradition had to face: how souls can interact with bodies if souls are indivisible and unextended and bodies are divisible and extended. Plotinus attempts to solve this problem by assigning a bridging role to the sense-organs.

Sponsored by Philosophy. Contact: Daniel Groll, x4232